Definition of an Accident Under the Schedule in a Rideshare Context
May 10, 2021
The Divisional Court brings some unanimous clarity
With the advent of Uber, Lyft and other similar rideshare applications, we begin to see familiar issues arising in novel contexts. Case in point, the Divisional Court’s April 28, 2021 decision, Porter v. Aviva Insurance (ONSC 3107), relates to the “definition of an accident” under Section 3 the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, where the injured claimant was the soon-to-be passenger of a Lyft ride sharing service vehicle.
The claimant was walking from the front door of her home to reach a Lyft vehicle that she had arranged to pick her up. The Lyft driver had parked less than halfway up the claimant’s driveway, which was notably icy and snowy. The claimant slipped and injured herself before reaching the vehicle. She contended that the incident was an “accident” pursuant to the Schedule and sought Statutory Accident Benefits from Aviva.
Aviva raised a Preliminary Issue at the License Appeal Tribunal and Vice Chair Susan Mather concluded that there were two direct causes of the claimant’s impairments. First, the icy driveway and, second, “as a result of the use and operation of” the Lyft vehicle which had stopped less than halfway up the driveway. The Vice Chair found that the claimant’s injuries were the direct result of an accident pursuant to the SABS since “she would not have been injured but-for, or as a result of, the location of the Lyft vehicle. Vice Chair Mather upheld her own decision on Reconsideration.
Aviva appealed to the Divisional Court and Justice Ryan Bell, writing for a unanimous three judge panel which included Justices Sachs and Kristjanson, overturned the Vice Chair’s decision. The Court found that the Vice Chair had conflated the but-for test with the direct causation test, which was an error in law. Justice Ryan Bell stressed that a claimant’s injuries must not only be a result of the use or operation of a vehicle, but a direct result of it (referencing the guiding 2002 Ontario Court of Appeal decision on this point, Chisholm v. Liberty Mutual Group (2002), O.R. (3d) 776). The location of the Lyft car on the driveway was an insufficient cause for the injuries to be considered a direct result of the vehicle’s use and operation. The Court concluded that the dominant factor that caused the claimant’s injuries was the icy driveway, while the use or operation of the Lyft car was, at best, ancillary.
As the “accident” analysis is a highly contextual one, we anticipate similar situations will be decided on their own facts. However, if one thing is certain, many similar cases are soon to come before the Tribunal and the Courts. Suffice to say, the involvement of a ride sharing service appears to not be a factor that ought to tip the scales in favour of an event being viewed as an “accident”.